The 2019 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards recently recognized 16 high school seniors who received the program’s highest national honor, the Gold Medal Portfolio, which includes a $10,000 scholarship.
Throughout April and May, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to identify students with exceptional artistic and literary talent and present their remarkable work to the world through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, will highlight two Gold Medal Portfolio recipients on their blog. This week, they are celebrating the work of Taylor Powers (Cypress, TX) and Brianna Kline Costa (Pittsburgh, PA).
“My body of work in this portfolio is inspired by my love for nature and my love for the anatomy of the human body. I found it hard to create landscapes on their own because they never felt original and neither did my portraits, so I decided to combine my two favorite subjects to photograph and turn it into something creative and experimental that really makes me push myself as an artist. Human Nature features photographs of the human body transformed into landscapes with skin textures and deep shadows that mimic the sun’s lighting on the earth.”
Brianna Kline Costa
“My favorite part of writing is revisiting and realizing obsessions. I never go into a piece with a particular intention, but I’ll notice while writing that a particular image or word stands out to me that I use in several pieces, or a subject that I find I have a lot to say about and continue to go back to.
“I first starting making stories when I was three. My mother used to save tips to buy me construction paper and crayons, and I would draw a picture. On the back of the drawing, I would tell her the story of the picture, and she would write it down and keep it in a binder in her closet. Writing for me has always been about ambition and finding new ways to talk about frequently discussed issues. My main goal primarily is to bring visceral perspectives back to politics. Important issues can get lost in big words and politicized terms, but in the end, when discussing public policy, the most important aspect is how it affects the people, and I feel as if we have lost a lot of human empathy.”
Happy Girls by Brianna Kline Costa (an excerpt from personal essay & memoir)
“Mexican, huh?” He sways, leaning on his own hallowed bones. He reeks of liquor. “Well, hola.” He laughs, his body swaying and feet stumbling across the tile floor. I am pressed into the corner of the kitchen, my fingers tracing the edge of the counter. The door to the back porch swings open. As night fell, the temperature had dropped to a disconcerting chill, and I use my hands to mask my goosebumps and the way my veins burn through my skin under fluorescent lights. He stands leaning against the kitchen wall across from me. I stare at the rusted stove burners, blushed with heat.
“Dad, stop,” my friend says, turning towards me, rolling her eyes and smiling. I smile back at her, but I know my face is tight and pale, and my smile is forced and unconvincing. She doesn’t notice though. She looks through me.
“No, no, see, here’s the thing…” His body falls into the chair behind him. “I don’t mind them in the country, as long as they know their role. That’s the important part.” He leans towards us, and I can feel his hot breath on my face. My cheeks flush in anger and embarrassment. I feel my back pressed against the wall. He drunkenly turns his bottle upside down and laughs as beer sloshed against my feet, seeping into my socks and yellowing the white. The stale smell of cheap beer. His teeth yellowed and his face carved into new-age portraits of stone gargoyles. “Why don’t you get on your knees and clean my floor, sweetheart?”
I was thirteen. It was the age when I stopped wanting to be looked at, when I started straightening my hair every day, so familiar with the sizzle of anti-frizz products as I clamped down, the air thick with the smell of burnt hair; when I started wearing cheap drugstore mascara that smudged and left dark bruises under my eyes. Started becoming conscious of how I smile (never with my teeth, until the braces were off), what angle I stood (pivoted slightly to the right to counter the appearance of hip dips), how I laughed (head back, hand over my mouth to cover my lips).
To see more Gold Medal Portfolio recipients, past and present, visit the Eyes on the Prize series on the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers blog.
Cover photo: TAYLOR POWERS, Red Sand, Photography. Photo in body: TAYLOR POWERS, M3E, Photography.